Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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The View From My Windshield: One Man's Trash

| Sun Sep. 19, 2010 6:07 PM EDT

Taos, New Mexico—Architect Michael Reynolds uses bottles, cans, and old tires to insulate his "Earthship" houses (Photo: Tim Murphy).Taos, New Mexico—Architect Michael Reynolds uses bottles, cans, and old tires to insulate his "Earthship" houses (Photo: Tim Murphy).

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Cartographic Interlude: A Really Weird Map of the Mississippi

| Fri Sep. 17, 2010 12:45 AM EDT

Pilgrims: Lake Itasca, Minnesota (Photo: Tim Murphy).Pilgrims: Headwaters of the Mississippi, Lake Itasca, Minnesota (Photo: Tim Murphy).We're nowhere near the Mississippi River right now. But NPR's Robert Krulwich has dug up this absolutely bonkers map, from the 1940s, which captures the migration of the river through all its jumps and cut-offs and channels. Basically, what you'll see is that the Mississippi bears a striking resemblance to the Flying Spaghetti Monster—and more seriously, that the entire map of the central United States is a relatively recent (and fragile) phenomenon.

New Madrid, Missouri, for instance, is across the river from the old New Madrid, Missouri, and, were it not for the Army Corps of Engineers, wouldn't be across the river from anything, because there's a natural cutoff further downstream; Huck Finn's Jackson Island is probably gone; in Louisiana, the Old River control system is the only thing keeping the Atchafalaya from capturing most of the Mississippi's water and relocating the mouth of the big river west to Morgan City.

Anyways, check it out.

Out in the West Texas Town of Marfa

| Wed Sep. 15, 2010 6:00 AM EDT

Marfa, Texas—Kaki Auftengarten's story starts off like so many other lamentations of small-town claustrophobia. "When I was 17 years old, there were no hip thirty-somethings living here. When you graduated from school, unless you had babies, you left."

So she did. Kaki left Marfa to go to college in Lubbock and then saw what else was out there—she hit Europe and Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, and then a funny thing happened: She came home. As she tells it, she was in Chinatown in San Francisco, with a good friend from college, when things started to feel weird.

"I just thought, 'Fuck, why would anyone want to live like this? I don't want to stand around for anything, I don't want to talk to all these people!'"

So she came back to Marfa, where she could ride her bike to wherever she needed to be in just a few minutes, and which, at this point, had attracted a crowd of youngish hip people and a few retirees to boot. Not that everyone liked it. "There are a lot of people who don't live here anymore," she says, a list that included her parents, who sold their house in town to a couple of guys from Manhattan. "My dad is a cowboy-boots-and-spurs, old-time type; I think he still has kind of a hard time dealing with two gay men moving into his house."

But Kaki really loves the place; her face lights up when she's talking and she's emphatic about her reclaimed hometown. "You don't have to be an artist to live in Marfa," she says.

The View From My Windshield: Day at the Beach

| Tue Sep. 14, 2010 2:59 PM EDT

White Sands National Monument, outside Alamogordo, New Mexico (Photo: Tim Murphy).White Sands National Monument, outside Alamogordo, New Mexico (Photo: Tim Murphy).

Roller Derby, and a Lefty's Case for Texas Secession

| Mon Sep. 13, 2010 7:36 PM EDT

Here's the Beef: Barbacoa is Spanish for "food coma" (Photo: Tim Murphy).Here's the Beef: Barbacoa is Spanish for "food coma" (Photo: Tim Murphy). Our guide in San Antonio was a geography student with an affinity for roller derby,* high school football, and Mexican Coca Cola (the kind that comes with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup). Oh, and Texas secession.

"We probably talk about Texas forming its own country more than we talk about Barack Obama," she confided, speaking for her friends. No kidding; later on, as she showed us around San Pedro Park, she pointed to an old brick structure and noted, "This building's been around since before the United States was part of Texas."

Rachel's case for secession wouldn't find much common ground with Rick Perry, though; to her, breaking away would only be the mildly humorous first step. All 50 states should break apart, and then keep on subdividing from there, into counties, and then towns, and then small, walkable, autonomous communities where everyone knows everyone and no one would ever, ever, think of building a WalMart. There's something of a small-government streak there, but mostly it's just fiercely anti-corporate (Mexican Coca Cola notwithstanding), in a way that reminded me of the folks who want to restore Vermont's independence so that they can ban chains and eat nothing but locally grown produce.

*A fun fact: To compete in a formal roller derby league, you first need to come up with a nickname and then have it approved by the association. For instance: "AC Slay-her," "Abraham Drinkin'," "A Kate 47," "Admiral Jackbar," and "Ammo-Zon"—and those are all just the letter "A." Check out the full list here.

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